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Woe is I
Posted: 08 February 2008 09:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Many people use “dative” to refer to the indirect object even in English, even though it’s no longer distinguished morphologically from the accusative; it’s still viewed as existing functionally.

For instance, in the sentence “Give me them”, me may be regarded as being in the dative case and them in the accusative, even though neither would change form if the cases were reversed.

The reason for calling the me in “Woe is me” dative is that it is functioning as a dative, even though it’s spelled the same as if it were functioning as an accusative.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Talking about indirect or direct objects is somewhat misleading here. The dative is also used to inflect the objects of certain prepositions. Which is the case (ha ha) here.

Objects of the Old English preposition to take the dative. So if you said “woe is to me,” me would have been in the dative. (Ditto in modern German, where objects of the preposition zu take the dative.)

The preposition unto appears in the Middle English period and I’d have to research whether the merger happened before or after its c.1300 appearance, and if before to verify that it also took the dative.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Talking about indirect or direct objects is somewhat misleading here.

Right, “me” in “woe is me” isn’t a typical indirect object.  My point was just that it’s not meaningless to talk about a dative in English, which seemed to be the assumption Oeco was making.

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Posted: 08 February 2008 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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very helpful guys.  Thanks.

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